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During World War II, few schools were constructed in Santa Clara County because of wartime needs and restrictions. Once the war was over, school construction, along with other construction, boomed. Gilroy was no exception. Brownell was built in 1949 adjacent to Jordan School, with an addition made in 1951. No significant changes were made until the last few years when the sixth-grade wing was added.
Originally, it served seventh and eighth grades only. Then in about 1980, it changed to Brownell Fundamental School and served kindergarten through eighth grades. By the mid-1990s, it returned to a middle school, for sixth through eighth grades.
Brownell was a 2015 State of California Gold Ribbon School and Title 1 Academic Achievement Winner. It also houses the district's Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program for middle schools. And, it's home to one of the district's finest middle school band and choirs.
Brownell Middle School was named after Elmer E. Brownell, a popular supervising principal of the Gilroy public schools and a leader in the education in Santa Clara County in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Professor Brownell was born in Essex Junction, Vermont on June 1, 1865.
He was educated in the San Jose public school system and graduated in 1884 from the California State Normal School, a school that educated teachers in association with the high school system. He then attended Stanford University. Between 1887 and 1895, Professor Brownell had an illustrious career as a teacher and administrator throughout the Bay Area. From 1896 to 1906 he served as president of the Santa Clara County Board of Education. He finished his educational career as a leader of the Gilroy public schools.
Professor Brownell was also involved in the community. He was an enthusiastic, non-partisan worker of local movements and was a member of the Scottish Rite Masons, the Knights Templar, the Watsonville Elks Lodge, the Mountain View Odd Fellows Lodge, the Gilroy I. O. O. F., and served as secretary and treasurer of Gilroy Golf and Country Club .